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News

Staff have to be happy, healthy and here to realise efficiency gains

HSE InfoLine : 12 December, 2005  (Company News)
'Managing employees' health and wellbeing can make a big difference to organisations' productivity and efficiency.' This is the message given by Jonathan Rees, Deputy Chief Executive of the Health and Safety Executive, in his speech Health and Wellbeing: its contribution to efficiency today. The speech was delivered to the public sector's second annual Efficiency Delivery Conference, Putting policy into practice, at the QEII Conference Centre.
'Managing employees' health and wellbeing can make a big difference to organisations' productivity and efficiency.' This is the message given by Jonathan Rees, Deputy Chief Executive of the Health and Safety Executive, in his speech Health and Wellbeing: its contribution to efficiency today. The speech was delivered to the public sector's second annual Efficiency Delivery Conference, Putting policy into practice, at the QEII Conference Centre.

A year ago the Ministerial Task Force for Health, Safety and Productivity published a report on tackling sickness absence in the public sector. The report noted the need for sustained commitment from managers at the top, delivering the right data and systems to support better attendance management, providing leadership and support for line managers and ensuring regular and supportive contact for those who are absent due to sickness.

Jonathan Rees said: 'The costs of sickness absence are high, at nearly 400 million each year in the civil service and around 900 million in local government. There are signs that work on this problem is having an impact. The most recent figures for sickness absence in both central and local government show significant falls and our statistics show that days lost due to work-related ill health are moving in the right direction. This reflects the increasing management focus being given to attendance issues as part of the efficiency and productivity agendas.'

Looking at examples of successful programmes to reduce sickness absence, he said: 'Staff have to be happy, healthy and here to realise efficiency gains, and HSE has evidence to show what can be achieved. Changes introduced by the Royal Mail, including incentive schemes, overhauling the occupational health systems and referring any cases of stress or musculoskeletal problems such as bad backs to occupational health advisers on day one, show that an investment of 3.5 million has led to savings of 80 million. This is the equivalent of having 2000 extra staff available every working day, making it much easier for them to achieve their business targets.'

Commenting on the work of the HSE, he said: 'HSE has an increasingly important role. Work-related stress is the major contributor to sickness absence in the public sector. To achieve a reduction in sickness absence, stress-management must become a priority. We have been rolling out our Stress Management Standards, a tool designed to help employers and employees manage the issue sensibly. It is still early days but we have already seen results. At the West Dorset NHS Trust, for example, the absence rate improved from 8% to 4.5% in just eight weeks.

'This shows that genuine quantifiable gains are possible using this approach. Through these standards we can prevent new cases of work-related stress and also help tackle the problem of sickness absence in the public sector. So if your organisation is not dealing with stress and using the standards, you need to talk to us. Not only will it improve the health and well being of your most valuable asset, your people, but it will also help you lead by example as a well-managed organisation and deliver efficiencies as a result.'
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